Saturday, November 22, 2014

Two bottle night.

I didn't drink a lot of wine on my recent trip home, but one night Thud and I managed to polish off two bottles.  We did have some help, however, as Lord Roby and Miss Roby (his daughter) stopped by for a glass of something red and Sicilian.
The Torretta Di Mondelli, 2013, Nero d'avola (IGP Terre Siciliane) was not a particularly outstanding wine, it wasn't really very complex and only medium bodied, but it had plenty of fruit - various black and red berries - and an attractive liquorice component.  Not too tannic, not too acidic, just a nice wine.  Really nice considering the price was around £6.00 ($10.00).
The Torretta was better than the other wine we drank.  The Palastri, 2012, Primitivo (IGT Puglia) was palatable, full bodied, but the fruit was just had a little stewed fruit thing going on.  Actually, I thought the wine was alright, but Thud didn't like it at all.  And the proof of the Primitivo pudding was, although it paired fairly decently with our evening meal of goulash, the bottle did not get emptied.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Back in the U.S. of A.

I'm back Stateside.  After a great holiday, I have returned to the Napa Valley.  The journey back was long and tedious, the only highlight being an Elvis impersonator who was on the flight from Manchester to London.  I lost track of Elvis in Heathrow.  I was hoping he would be on my flight from London to San Francisco, but, alas, he was probably on his way to Las Vegas.
It seemed like I was away for ages.  I don't know why, but I expected all sorts of things to be different when I woke up my first morning back.  The vines are a little more yellow, senescence is well and truly happening, but only the white grape varieties have lost any leaves to speak of.  It's a little cooler, but not cold, so there isn't a need to turning the heating on yet.  Still, it definitely feels like autumn.  Vinodog 2 made a big fuss of me, but she is such a creature of habit that just 5 minutes later it was like I'd never been away. 
Vinomaker was doing wine stuff when I left; racking, barreling down, topping etc., and he was still doing wine stuff when I got back.
Constancy is good.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chocks away!

Goodbye Blighty 2014, Part 2.
Once again my holiday has come to an end and early tomorrow I will be winging my way back to the US of A.  But not before I have a farewell glass of something domestic, a Spitfire Kentish Ale.
Spitfire bitter (pale ale) was first brewed in 1990 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, a limited edition entitled 'The Bottle of Britain'.  Seemingly, the folks at Shepherd Neame Brewery have a good sense of humour.  This particular edition is a partnership with the men's health charity, Movember.  In homage to Movember's annual moustache growing campaign, Spitfire's current label is adorned with a ginger mustache.  Cute.  Quite malty, fruity, hoppy and slightly bitter Spitfire is a very pleasant ale.  And a fitting way to send me off into the wide blue yonder.
California here I come.

Monday, November 10, 2014


A quick road trip from Thud Manor today found me in Deva Victrix, or just Deva for short, or simply Chester if you're not an ancient Roman.  Founded by the aforementioned Romans in 79 AD, Chester has always been one of my favourite places to visit, a place with serious history.  I had a lovely time wandering around what is to me a very familiar place, popping into familiar buildings and shops.  Corks Out, although it used to have a different name which I can't remember now, is one such shop.
As the name may suggest Corks Out is a wine (and spirits) merchant.  Located in a 13th century crypt, with a groin vault ceiling, this wine emporium was a place I shopped at fairly often when in search of something unusual as they always had a nice selection of uncommon wines.  I had a little nose about and a quick gander at the California-Napa-Sonoma wine collection (which wasn't much to write home, or on my blog, about).  And a nice chat to the clerk, which brought to mind my last time at Corks Out.  I remember chatting to the clerk then also.  In conversation, I mentioned that I was employed at a Napa Valley winery.  The clerk apparently didn't believe me as with a derisive snort he basically turned his back on me.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a business card with me to prove that I was indeed gainfully employed, so with a shrug I laughed to myself and left without buying any wine.  Vinogirl out!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The enemy.

Today is Remembrance Sunday.  This year is a particularly special year as it is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.  Since I arrived home on the 29th of October I have been wearing my poppy, (the emblem of the poppies that bloomed across the battlefields of Flanders), with pride. 
I used to love Poppy Day when I was a kid and I couldn't wait to place a small, kid-sized remittance in the familiar red collection box, a donation to benefit ex-servicemen and women.  In return I'd receive my red paper poppy with it's black plastic centre that I wore with enthusiasm.  The Royal British Legion raises a lot of money in their annual poppy appeal which funds their work with the Armed Forces community.  The ladybird in the photograph looks like it is sporting a brilliant red poppy on it's elytra in honour of the war dead.  It looks cute.  But looks can be deceiving.
The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis), a non-native species, is invading the British Isles.  The harlequin was first spotted here in 2004 and has quickly become one of the most common ladybirds in the country. The invasive harlequin is a rather large species of ladybird and it is a voracious predator, it is able to out-compete the native species for aphids and will also eat other ladybirds' eggs and larvae.  Not good.  The harlequins are clustered in large numbers around window and door frames and in any available nooks and crannies where they hope to overwinter.  Their numbers are quite impressive outdoors and inside: my bedroom and bathroom (at Thud's house) have been invaded also.  They're cute, but like The hun they are persona non grata here.  The world is an increasingly smaller place and invasive species hitchhiking around the globe is increasingly problematic.  I will definitely check my bags when I leave here later this week.
Lest we forget.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Domaine of the Bee.

A decent wine, at last.  Thud and I polished off this bottle last night.  The Domaine of the Bee, 2009 (IGP Côtes Catalanes), was a fairly decent wine, eventually, that is, as it took a little time to open up.  A Granache (blended with 15% Carignan), from northern Roussillon in the south of France, this wine was a little surprising in that the alcohol was a tad high (at 15%) and you could taste it.  Yes, I know it is probably rather toasty down there on the border with Spain, but the high alcohol reminded me of some overly extracted, out of balance Napa wines that I've had.  However, the wine's ripe raspberry and spicy-herb component saved the day.
I had bought this bottle of wine for Thud a couple of Christmases ago.  Actually, I bought three bottles for him.  After last night he only has one remaining, (I do like to help out my dear brother by depleting his wine reserves when I am home).  And seeing as it was a Christmas present I was a little disappointed at the state of the label.  Whilst the main label looked fine, there just happened to be a whole extra label concertinaed to the side.  Now, of course, a mishap in the labeling process would not have a deleterious effect on the taste of the wine, but this was a gift and I'm a little shocked that the folks at Domaine of the Bee would have chosen this particular bottle to send with the other two.  Just saying.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bang! Bang!

It's Bonfire Night, yay!  I love Bonfire Night, or as we call it up in Liverpool, Bommy Night, (or Guy Fawkes to others).  I can't believe that it has been about 10 years since I was last home for Bommy Night, but I'm here now.
There are several essential ingredients for a successful Bonfire Night; the bonfire, of course, (the bigger the better), toffee apples (even though they make my teeth ache), treacle toffee (Thud's speciality), potatoes (to bake in the embers), hot chocolate (for the kids), something red and vinous (for the adults) and, last but not least, the fireworks (lots and lots of them).  Unlike California, there isn't any danger of soggy England going up in smoke.
Photographed is Thud's selection of pyrotechnic plunder for the family's entertainment.  Sparklers, rockets (lots of rockets), Catherine wheels and Roman candles abound.  Then there's The King and Big Mama, which resemble not so small incendiary devices.  Kaboom!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Morning in England.

Not a bad view to wake up to, eh?  Arrived in Blightly late at night, so I had to wait until the next morning to enjoy the beautiful countryside around Thud's home.  The weather has been unseasonably warm, until just last night when it got quite chilly, so consequently it feels a lot colder today. 
I have been busy catching up with family, too busy to post on Vinsanity.  Besides, I haven't done anything, or rather drank anything of any note to write about.  I have had a couple of nice meals out, but I haven't had any good wine yet.  Just one barely passable glass of Rioja and a rather dodgy Pinot Grigio.  I may have to rectify that and raid Thud's cellar tonight.  Hopefully he won't read this beforehand.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Get back... where I once belonged, Part 6.  Yes, later today, I'm off home to Blighty once again.  I love Liverpool and it will always be home to me.
Liverpool is a city teeming with history.  From being granted a royal charter by King John in 1207, lots of well known people have hailed from this maritime city (not just The Beatles, and me) and tons of interesting stuff has happened there.  Thriving docklands, which created great wealth (historically bananas and sheep were big business), led Liverpool to be known as the Second City of the Empire.   Liverpool can boast that it had the first United States Consul anywhere in the world, most definitely an indicator of the city's status and importance.  And it was also home to James Greig's cooperage.
This old photograph (on a postcard) of the J. Grieg, Cooper & General Cask Dealer is dispalyed in the Merseyside Museum of Labour History.  I haven't been able to find out much information about Mr. Greig's business other than the tidbit of information on the back of the postcard.  Apparently the photograph was taken in about 1900 and the cooperage was located at 23 Virgil Street (off Scotland Road, north of the city centre).  I think this photograph is wonderful, and not just because it has barrels in it, look at the character in the faces of those men.  I'm amusing myself with the idea that I may still recognise any one them on the street in Liverpool, only now in the faces of their descendents.  Not all Liverpudlians have left this much beloved city as I have.
Get back JoJo!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grappa anyone?

The 2014 harvest and the 2014 harvest-party season are well and truly over.  And last night I celebrated harvest's end with my co-workers at TWWIAGE.  I work with some great people and it's always nice to spend quality party-time with them.  For many of the production staff it was the first Saturday that they hadn't had to work since mid-September, so they really let their hair down.  And I mean they really let their hair down: the theme of the party was Woodstock so lots of bad, long, shaggy wigs abounded. 
Today, Vinomaker and I pressed off three different batches of Cabernet sauvignon.  It was a rather painless process this year, but still by the end of the day I was coloured purple from head to toe.  Quite psychedelic. 
Seeing all the skins reminds me that Vinomaker's friend, Sky King, usually pesters us to make a grappa from the pomace.  Too much trouble I say and it couldn't really be legally called grappa if produced in the USA.  What would I call it?  No matter, it's not going to happen.  Besides, I'm not a grappa drinker anyway.  The only grappa that I have ever thought half decent was one I purchased in a small caffé in Rome, just over the Ponte Sant'Angelo, which was made from Pinot Nero.  I digress.  Harvest is done.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Blighty calling?

I have photographed vineyards.  I have photographed red telephone boxes.  But I have never photographed a red telephone box in a vineyard.  Evidently, one of my Commenwealth brethren to the north has beaten me to it.  Drat! 
I'm sure Phil Luckett (a native of Nottingham), of Luckett Vineyards in Nova Scotia, is a lovely chap who makes lovely wines.  Apparently, Mr. Luckett has an arrangement with the Canadian telephone company to allow for toll free calls to anywhere in North America: 1-800-VINO?  Probably not.
I feel a phone call coming on.
Photo credit: George Medovoy

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Penultimate Party.

Actually, I have one and a bit more harvest parties to attend before the harvest season is over.  But the harvest festivity that I attended today is, perhaps, for me the ultimate harvest party.  I love the harvest party the vineyard workers throw for all of the staff at TWWIAGE.  Best Mexican food, EVER!
A couple of wines, other than TWWIAGE's, showed up with guests whom also have Oakville vineyards. My absolute favourite was the Gargiulo Vineyards, 2011 Money Road Ranch Merlot (Oakville AVA).  A beautiful wine that could almost make me forget about ever drinking any Cabernet Sauvignon ever again.  But then again, Gargiulo do a great job with all of their wines. Yummy.
Many thanks to the TWWIAGE vineyard boys.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

All done for 2014.

So that's it, Vinoland's 2014 harvest is over!
Fruit looked great, not that much bird or bee damage and the odd rain event that we have had, over the past few weeks, didn't really cause any mould problems either.  Weather was fantastic for a harvest day (even a tad on the toasty side), workers were affable and the harvest after-party enchiladas were yummy.  Once again, good friends, good wine, good food.  And to quote TWWIAGE's very own Marketing Queen, "...harvest.  Always makes me remember why I love living here."  Couldn't have put it better myself.
Of course, I think the fruitless vines look a little forlorn now, but that's just anthropomorphic me.  Now I'm looking forward to the 2015 growing season.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The stripper.

The harvest season is quickly coming to a close, so there is very little unpicked fruit left to be seen hanging around the Napa Valley.  TWWIAGE picked and processed their last fruit of 2014 on Tuesday.  In Vinoland only the Cabernet sauvignon is still hanging, but that's about to change come this Saturday.
As of today, the numbers on the Cabernet sauvignon were °Brix 25.8, pH 3.52 and TA 8.0, but since the decision to pick has already been made the numbers are sort of irrelevant.  The weather has turned quite autumnal and the vines have noticeably started to shut down.  I spent most of today pulling leaves, stripping the shoots of all basal leaves to help facilitate a quick and clean harvest.  And that's what I will be doing tomorrow also.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Rutherford AVA.

Right above the Oakville AVA (the AVA in which I work), is the Rutherford AVA.  Named after Thomas Rutherford who, upon marrying George C. Yount's daughter, was given 1,000 acres of land from his new father-in-law as a wedding present, Rutherford is/was the home of at least two of Napa's most historic wineries - Beaulieu Vineyard and Inglenook (whilst under the ownership of the visionary John Daniel Jr., not Francis Ford Coppola).  Nowadays, the AVA is the home of many renowned wineries e.g., Caymus Vineyards, Frog's Leap Winery, Mumm Cuvee Napa and, for all the wrong reasons, the nightmarish, to me at least, Raymond Vineyards.
Rutherford is perhaps best known for its soil, in fact the soil even has a society named after it: the aptly named Rutherford Dust Society.  André Tchelistcheff, who is credited with introducing modern winemaking practices to the Napa Valley (whilst at Beaulieu), said, "It takes Rutherford dust to grow great Cabernet."  Hmmm, I think the folks in the other AVAs would likely disagree.  The fact is, the entire Napa Valley is unique due to the diversity of the soils found here.  I personally can't really claim that I have ever tasted dust in any Rutherford wine I have tried, but I'll continue to experiment.  It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.
Five down, eleven to go.